By Seann McAnally
The City of Grandview will likely do without a mayor until regular elections this April.
The Board of Aldermen on Oct. 5 held a special meeting to choose a successor for Mayor Bob Beckers, who passed away in August after a battle with cancer.
“It’s time for the city to take the next step, as difficult as that is for all our hearts,” said Alderman Steve Dennis, who will continue to preside over meetings in his current role as board president until elections in April.
“It will take four votes to elect any person to the position of mayor,” said Joe Gall, city attorney.
Four candidates were nominated, but none could garner the required four votes.
Alderman Joe Runions nominated himself. Alderman Tony Preyer nominated Dennis. Alderman Leonard Jones nominated Ken Cox, a former Ward II Alderman and current Parks and Recreation Commissioner. Jones also nominated himself.
After a lengthy discussion about how the vote should be conducted, Joe Gall, city attorney, and Becky Schimmel, city clerk, advised the board that they needed to vote out loud in a “roll call” style.
Cox garnered the most votes, with Crain, Jones, and Turnbaugh voting “yay.” Preyer and Dennis voted “yay” for Dennis’ nomination.
No votes were cast for Jones, and Runions was the sole vote for himself.
At the core of the voting process was the question of whether it would be fair for current board members who plan to run for mayor in April to have to face an opponent who had been appointed to the seat and has served as mayor until the election—essentially, an incumbent.
“I think we need someone from outside,” Jones said. “We don’t want anyone to have an advantage because they’re an incumbent. Let’s be honest – I’m looking at this to be fair for all of us going forward who are interested in running for mayor sitting around this table.”
Dennis, Jones, and Runions all expressed an interest in running for mayor in April.
Jones asked Runions to withdraw his name from consideration so a second vote could be taken that might result in four votes for one candidate, presumably his nominee Cox, who had three.
“Are you willing to remove your name, Joe?” Jones asked.
“Nope,” Runions replied.
Jones reiterated that he did not think it would be fair to have to run against an incumbent who was appointed, not elected.
Alderman Jim Crain agreed with Jones.
“I think we have three existing aldermen who will make a race in April - three good candidates,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to have one person have an advantage. For a while I didn’t think that mattered, but the more I think about it, it might matter. I would hate for that to be the deciding factor. I want people in April to look at the candidates and talk to them, understand their visions, understand their philosophies, understand where they’re coming from, and make a decision based on that.”
Preyer said he felt the process of appointing a mayor was becoming one of political gamesmanship.
“That seems to be what’s happening here; no one wants to put someone in that seat because it might hurt someone’s chances of election,” Preyer said.
Before the vote, Jones said he felt the board should discuss the issue, so that whoever was chosen would be chosen unanimously.
“I think it would be wise for us to do something that we could potentially get six votes in agreement to move forward, unless we want to be disappointed,” Jones said. “We could go around the table and there’s going to be disappointed people.”
Dennis shrugged in response.
“That’s the nature of an election,” he said. “We put our egos on the line.”
Preyer said it was important not to take the vote personally.
“As far as disappointment goes, I want to state the obvious: if we vote for someone it’s not an indictment on the other person,” Preyer said.
Dennis said he thought it was good to have disagreement and healthy debate.
“I’m glad we don’t always agree on all the issues. I’m glad we can spend all night having spirited discussion, and still be friends about it,” Dennis said.
The city not having a mayor until April didn’t sit well with Anita Hensley, the only member of the public to attend the entire meeting.
“It seems that there are some here tonight who had a bigger interest in whether they get elected in April than in moving the city forward now,” she said. “This was all just political.”